100: The 9/11 Connection

100: The 9/11 Connection

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

The 9/11 Connection

We will remember every rescuer who dies in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember…

~President George W. Bush

Observing the tenth anniversary of 9/11 was challenging for me. I wasn’t on American soil. I was in Canada on a two-year work assignment with my family. I couldn’t help feeling disconnected with all that was going on in the States, as our coverage was screened through the lens of the BBC and CBS.

The ten-year anniversary fell on a Sunday. That morning, I was getting ready for church. I never wear jewelry other than my wedding ring. Yet, for some reason, I was rummaging through my jewelry.

I found an antique locket, a gift from my husband a decade ago. I opened it, curious to see if there were any pictures inside. Sure enough there were two — one of my older daughter wearing a tutu, another of my son smiling broadly, trying to hold his baby sister.

My stomach dropped. I remember taking those pictures. It was the morning of September 11, 2001.

I had a three-week-old baby and three hours of sleep that morning. My oldest was four and had been up since 6:00, dressed for her first ballet lesson. I took her picture before breakfast, fearing spilt milk and absent-mindedness. My two-year-old son wanted his picture taken, too, so I propped the baby in his arms and took it.

The Teletubbies were on TV. I let the older two eat cereal in front of “Electronic Mommy,” while I went to my room to nurse the baby in peace.

I remember little things — how blue the sky was, how much I craved coffee, how inane I found the Teletubbies, how perfect my baby’s fingers were. Perhaps everyone can recall with such clarity the thirty seconds before learning of the attacks.

Sometime after nine, the phone rang. It was my mother.

“Are you watching TV?”

“No.”

She told me about New York. I ran upstairs, still holding my daughter, and commandeered the television. I saw the towers smoking. Stunned, I sat on the coffee table and didn’t move.

Hours passed. I saw the towers fall. I saw the Pentagon burn. I saw the field in Pennsylvania. Eventually, my daughter asked when we were going to ballet. I looked at her.

How could something as innocent as a pre-ballet class happen today?

I called the ballet school to see if they were still holding classes, as if the attacks where on the same level as a snow day. My old director answered, cheerful as yesterday. She didn’t know about the attacks. I found myself playing the reluctant reporter.

Silence.

When she spoke, her voice was soft. Classes would go on as scheduled.

I hung up the phone. I turned off the TV. The ensuing silence was loud, almost irreverent. I buckled the kids in the minivan, kissing their heads because I could. I started the engine and rolled down the windows. The sky was so blue — no clouds, no planes. I turned on the radio, letting the news kill the silence.

I drove fifteen miles under the speed limit. No one passed me or honked. When I pulled into the parking lot and turned off the car, I could still hear the radio. Looking around, I realized it was coming from the open windows of the adjacent buildings and cars. It was my first brush with a national connection.

I wasn’t just a mom in a minivan; I was an American.

I don’t remember putting those pictures in that locket. I don’t know what possessed me to pick it up on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

All I know was that it no longer mattered that I wasn’t on American soil; I was still connected.

~Nicole L.V. Mullis

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